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MODAL VERBS

1 Bachillerato

Modal verbs are a special group of auxiliary verbs. They dont express facts, we use them before other verbs to

express attitudes, opinions and judgements of events: permission, ability, possibility, request, obligation ...

1) Correct the following sentences.

1. She cans play the piano.


2. You dont must open the book.
3. Can you to sing?
4. Last year I must work on Saturdays.
5. My sister couldnt her homework.
6. I would like to can play the violin.

They are different from most other verbs in four ways:

1. They are always followed by an infinitive without to: * I may go out tonight.

2. They have no s on the third person singular: * John should study harder.

3. They dont need auxiliary in negatives and questions: * Can you help me? No, I cant

4. They dont have tenses, infinitives or participles: * Being able to speak English is very useful nowadays.

ABILITY

CAN --- Present * My boyfriend can play three musical instruments.

COULD --- Past / Conditional * I could talk when I was two.

BE ABLE TO --- Other tenses * One day, people will be able to visit Mars.
* I have never been able to understand grown-ups.
* Id like to be able to understand men / women.
* Being able to swim is necessary if you want to go sailing.

2) Complete the sentences with can(t), could(nt) or the correct form of (not) be able to.

1. It was raining hard, so I ...................................... go out.


2. Id love to .......................................... fly.
3. I .................................. see because Im not wearing my glasses.
4. The police ............................... catch him, so he escaped.
5. He .......................................... play football since he broke his leg.
6. I saw the accident I might ..................................... help the police.
7. If you dont tell me what your problem is, I
........................................... help you.
3) Fill in the gaps with can(t), could(nt) or the correct form of (not) be able to.

Dear Mary,
Im very pleased you .. come to stay at the weekend. Im sorry I ................................. talk to you
on the phone last night but I ............................. leave the baby. I .......................................... get tickets for the theatre on
Saturday I .......................... wait to go. Mum says that when she was young you ................................ have a night out for
$2! You certainly ....................................... now!
We ................................................ fix the car yet but Mum says we ................................. borrow hers. By the way, the
baby .................................... say three words now! See you on Friday. Love, Jane

PERMISSION

Asking for / Giving / Refusing permission

CAN --- (informal) * Can I use your phone? Of course you can.

MAY --- (formal) * May I speak to you? Certainly you may.

COULD --- (polite) * Could I borrow your car? Of course you can.

MIGHT --- (more formal) * Might I see your diving licence, please?

4) Fill in with can, may, could, cant

Jim: Mum, .................................... I go to the library?


Mother: Of course you ........................, Jim, but you ................................ stay very long.
Jim: ............................... I stay until 8.00?
Mother: No, you ............................, because dinner starts at 8.30.
(At the library)
Jim: ................................. I look at the latest Time magazine, please?
Librarian: Yes, you .........................., but remember that you ............................ take it out of the library.

Talking about permission

CAN --- Present * Students can use the school swimming pool.

COULD -- Past * I could wear jeans in primary school.

BE ALLOWED TO * Students are allowed to use the school swimming pool.


* The reporter was allowed to take a photo of the singer.
* When I turn 18, Ill be allowed to go on holiday with my friends.
* I have never been allowed to smoke at home.
5) Complete the sentences with the correct form of (not) be allowed to.

1. I stay out late but only at the weekends.


2. That sign says No smoking. You . smoke in here.
3. My brother . watch the film last night because it was on too late.
4. In Britain you. drive a car while holding a mobile phone.
5. When we were younger, we . go to bed late on Friday nights.
6. (You) . come to the disco on Saturday night?
7. (They) . wear jewellery to school? - No, they arent

6) Fill in with can(t), could(nt), may (not) or (not) be allowed to.

Daniel: . ............................ I go to the cinema tonight?


Mrs Baynes: You know you ........................... go out during the week.
Daniel: But I .................................. go out last Saturday either. I think Dad is too strict.
Mrs Baynes: Dont speak about your father like that. He does what he thinks is best.
Daniel: ............................ I have some friends over, then?
Mrs Baynes: Im afraid you .............................. Were having some friends for dinner.
Daniel: ........................... I at least watch TV for a while?
Mrs Baynes: Yes, you ..............................., but only after youve done your homework.
Daniel: But I havent got any homework!
Mrs Baynes: Oh! Well, in that case, you .............................. go out, but you .......................... be home late.
Daniel: Ill be home by 11 oclock, I promise.

7) Complete the sentences with the correct verb.

Present 1. Two of my friends ................................. play the saxo. (ability)


2. At our school we ................................... wear jewellery. (permission)
Past 3. I ............................. walk when I was one. (ability)
4. I ............................. stay up late until I was twelve (permission).
Present Perfect 5. Ive always .................................. swim fast. (ability)
6. Shes never ................................ dye her hair. (permission)
Future 7. Im taking skiing lessons, next year I .................................. ski. (ability)
8. I wont ..................................... get a job until I am seventeen. (permission)

POSSIBILITY / DEDUCTION

MAY --- It is very possible * He may be back before noon.

MIGHT --- It is possible * He might pass the exam this time.

COULD --- Small possibility * He could get rich one day.

MUST --- It is almost certain; I think. * They look alike. They must be twins.

CANT --- It is impossible; I dont think * It must be a lie. It cant be true.


8) Choose the correct option.

1. This must / might / can be Joans file its got her name on it.
2. We can / might / must go to the beach we are not sure.
3. I could / can / may buy a motorcycle if I wanted to.
4. He never lies so he cant / mustnt / must be telling the truth.
5. That woman cant / mustnt / couldnt be the head teacher shes too young.
6. I mustnt / may / can phone you tonight if I have time.

ADVICE

SHOULD * You should stop smoking.

OUGHT TO * You ought to treat animals kindly.

9) Rewrite these sentences using the modal verbs in brackets.

1. I advise you to see your dentist. (should)


2. Im sure that New York is an exciting city. (must)
3. It is possible that Ill arrive home late. (may)
4. Im certain that studying and working at the same time isnt easy. (cant)
5. Do you have the ability to write with your left hand? (can)

OBLIGATION

MUST / HAVE TO --- Present * We must follow the school rules. (I am obliged)
* I must see a doctor soon. (I decide, it is necessary)
* I have to lose some weight.(External obligation. The doctor says so)
* Do you have to get up early every day?

HAVE TO --- Other tenses * At 7, I had to go to bed before ten.


* At 30, Ill have to look after my family.
* Since I was 7, I have always had to make my bed.
* Having to get up early is annoying.

PROHIBITION

MUSTNT * You mustnt smoke at school = You cant smoke at school = You may not smoke at school
NO OBLIGATION

DONT / DOESNT HAVE TO * You dont have to take an umbrella. It isnt raining.

* My little sister doesnt have to do the washing up.

NEEDNT * You neednt take an umbrella. It isnt raining.

* My little sister neednt do the washing up.

10) Fill in the gaps with must, mustnt, neednt or cant.

In this school students ................................. smoke. They can dress as they like, they
................................ wear school uniforms but they ............................. wear dirty clothes. Students
............................ leave school until 3 p.m. They .............................. forget to do their homework. They
............................ bring a doctors note if they are sick, their parents can write one. Students
.............................. be late for class or talk loudly in lessons. Students ....................... follow these rules,
but teachers ............................. obey them because they have a separate set of rules to follow.

11) Choose the correct meaning for each sentence.

1. Dogs can't come in here. 5. You mustn't take a mobile phone to school.
a) Dogs aren't allowed in here. a) It's against the rules to take a mobile phone to school.
b) It's better if dogs don't come in here. b) You shouldn't take a mobile phone to school, but you
2. It can't be John. He's at school. can if you want to.
a) It's possible that it's John. 6. You needn't hurry. We aren't late.
b) It's impossible that it's John. a) It isn't a good idea to hurry.
3. It might rain later. Look at those black clouds. b) It isn't necessary to hurry.
a) It definitely won't rain later. 7. You have to be seventeen to apply for a driving licence in
b) It's possible it will rain later. Britain.
4. Lara ought to change her computer. a) It's necessary to be seventeen before you can
a) It's necessary for Lara to change her computer. apply for a driving licence.
b) It's a good idea for Lara to change her computer. b) You can apply for a driving licence before you are 17

12) Rephrase the following sentences so that they mean the same.

1. You cant take photographs in the Reina Sofa Museum. (be allowed to)

2. Perhaps well go to a football match at the weekend. (may)

3. Its a good idea for you to listen more carefully. (ought to)

4. I can borrow my parents car whenever I like. (be allowed to)

5. It is a bad idea to wear a coat in this weather. (shouldnt)

6. When I was three I couldnt ride a bike. (be able to)

7. Its my birthday but it isnt necessary for you to buy a present (neednt)

8. The students can use dictionaries in the English exam. (be allowed to)

9. Im sure they are exhausted. (must)

10. My grandfather was obliged to do military service when he was 18. (have to)
PERFECT MODALS

We can use some modal verbs in the perfect form to talk about past events.

MODAL + HAVE + PAST PARTICIPLE

MAY / MIGHT HAVE + Past Participle -- possibility in the past

* She hasnt come yet. She may / might have taken the wrong bus.

COULD HAVE + Past Participle -- alternative past action

* We could have invited her to the part, but we all forgot.

MUST HAVE + Past Participle -- Certainty that something was true.

* Linda has arrived late. She must have been in a traffic jam.

CANT HAVE + Past Participle -- Impossibility in the past

* She cant have passed the exam she didnt study at all!

SHOULD / SHOULDNT HAVE -- Criticism after an event

* I shouldnt have stayed out so late last night. I feel terrible.

13) Choose the correct alternative.

1. 'I got 95% in my history exam.' - 'It might have / can't have been very difficult!'
2. 'Everywhere is very wet.' - 'It must have / can't have rained in the night.'
3. 'I saw your brother in town this morning.' - 'You might have / can't have seen him because he's away.'
4. 'I phoned you last night but there was no reply.' - 'I might have / can't have been in the bathroom.'
5. 'Have you finished your homework?' - 'No, I might have / should have done it but I haven't had time.'
6. 'Angelo was always looking forward to seeing Maria.' - 'He must have / can't have really liked her then.'

14) Complete the sentences with the perfect forms of the modals.

1. 'Where's Adela?'- 'She . (must / leave) because her car isn't outside.'
2. 'Oliver passed his maths exam.' - 'He . (can't / do). He didn't do any work!'
3. 'Where's Elena? She's really late.' - 'She . (might / miss) the bus.'
4. 'Poor Maria. She feels sick.' - 'She .. (could / eat) something bad.'
5. 'My brother is 13 tomorrow.' - 'So he . (must / be) born in 1991.
6. 'Oh no. I've gone the wrong way.' - 'You .. (should / take) the last turning.'

15) Rewrite the following sentences beginning with the words given.

1. He wasnt able to write until he was eight. He ...........................


2. Talking is not permitted during the test. You ............................
3. It isnt right to speak to your mother like that. You ................
4. I advise you to drive more slowly. You ..........................................
5. It isnt necessary to buy a ticket. You ..........................................
6. It is possible that he will win the race. He ..................................
7. Im sure that is Johns car. That ...................................................
8. It is obligatory to wear a uniform in this school. You ..............
9. Im sure Jim didnt mention the matter to anyone. Jim ..........
10. Perhaps he has gone home. He .......................................................